Syrian crisis not serious (yet)

Hell's Angels. Like Bashar al-Assad, their power of deterrence comes from their reputation for ruthlessness.

Hell’s Angels. Like Bashar al-Assad, their power of deterrence comes from their reputation for ruthlessness.

Predictions of an apocalyptic Middle East war following a US attack on Syria are premature. None of the players are interested in a serious confrontation.

President Obama feels boxed in by his ‘red line’ promise, and it appears that it will be impossible to pretend that the line was not crossed. So he will, with the cooperation of the UK and perhaps France, symbolically strike some assets of the Assad regime.

This will be coordinated in advance with the Russians, who will make a lot of noise in public, but in private will not be concerned as long as Assad’s hold on power is not threatened, which it will not be.

Assad’s threats to retaliate against Israel also fall in the category of noise. His overwhelming concern is to stay in power, and although he finds it advantageous to link Israel to the ‘terrorists’ he is fighting, he knows that Israel is in fact neutral in the conflict. Why upset this applecart and risk really painful reprisals?

Assad’s gamble to use chemical weapons has thus had the following effects:

• It terrorized the Sunni civilians who are supporting the rebels. Remember, this is as much an ethnic war as a political one. Like the Hell’s Angels motorcycle club, much of Assad’s deterrence depends on his reputation for being ruthless, even ‘crazy’ (although he is actually quite rational).

• It embarrassed Obama. The weak response that will follow will prove to Assad that Western opposition will not be a significant restraint on his freedom to do as he wishes.

The downside for the regime will be a few Tomahawk impacts, possibly on empty buildings, but certainly not enough to affect the outcome of the civil war.

I could be wrong, but I don’t think so.

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3 Responses to “Syrian crisis not serious (yet)”

  1. Shalom Freedman says:

    This is the best analysis I have seen of the situation so far. Dan Scheuftan agrees with your view about the Syrians not wanting to become entangled with Israel. He points out that Israel would destroy all the assets that give Assad an advantage over the rebels.
    I also believe your analysis of Obama’s probable response is correct. He will coordinate with the Russians , make a limited strike and return to dealing with the domestic matters which are his primary concern.
    I nonetheless am troubled at the thought that Israel might become involved now. My own feeling here is that the Syrian situation is going to be one of long- time conflict. Our involvement would not do us any major good. We too should not take our eye off Iran.

  2. Robman says:

    This could blow over, but it may blow up.

    Obama is the one with the least skin in the game….but he has pretty thin skin.

    All the other actors in this situation have a lot at stake, and this is serious brinksmanship.

    And, Obama is very, very stupid. As is everyone he has surrounded himself with.

    This is not a good combination.

    But if it does blow up, maybe this would present Israel with a good opportunity to hit Iran’s nuke sites. I actually think this potential scenario, along with distracting from his “mission” to shove a Saudi-style “peace” plan down Israel’s throat, are the main factors mitigating against Obama taking action.

    So, on balance, I tentatively agree with Vic. This will probably not amount to much.

    But it is stupid, miscalculating narcissists like Obama who have caused many of the problems throughout history.

  3. Shalom Freedman says:

    I agree with Robman that one of the major factors to worry about is the incompetence of the Obama regime. They can take action which will cause great damage to Israel. They can too fail to back us if Israel does take the situation as one which gives it opportunity to go for the Iranian nuclear sites.
    One thought I have is that the U.S. should be dealing with Iran not Syria. Syria if the U.S. and Israel were coordinated could be the work for Israel.
    I will just make one point here which I may have made before. What for the Americans might be a one- shot or two- shot action could lead for Israel to an involvement for years. My own feeling, and perhaps I am wrong is that Israel should do everything possible to stay out of this.
    Two sets of enemies are killing each other, why should we put ourselves in the middle of this?
    PS Again what I worry about is that the Obama Administration will by its action put us in the middle of this.